Wilson River Trail: Neither quick nor all that dirty.

A hefty chunk of Team Metropolis (and one apostate who defected to Breadwinner) rode the Wilson River Trail a week ago Sunday. The weather was glorious, and the trail itself was in surprisingly good (read: dry) condition. The plan initially had been to ride the loop at Brown’s Camp, but upon being advised there was still snow at the summit of Highway 6, WRT was proposed as a reasonable compromise.

The trail itself is quite smooth, with the only technical features being infrequent rocky patches (not big enough to warrant the name ‘ rock garden’) and more numerous small creek crossings. The dirt was firm and dry, with not a hint of snow or mud, though there were a few downed trees to negotiate.

We quickly split into two groups, a crew of hard chargers going off the front, with the rest of us proceeding at a more measured pace. It’s a tough trail, steep enough in most places to push a less fit rider into the red, but not necessarily so steep as to force an immediate dismount.

A creek feeding into the Wilson River.

 

That said, I for one did plenty of walking, as did most of us in the slow group. The mountains of the Coast Range may not be anywhere as near as high as the Cascades, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

 

If this were a trail built for bikes, there would be a big berm here, making the turn nice and smooth. As it is, riders need to be careful with their speed going downhill.

After much painful grinding and a fair amount of pushing, we reached the highest point of the trail, the summit of Elk Mountain. After eating some snacks and enjoying the view, a speedy descent (with a little bit of climbing) awaited us.

The view from the top of Elk Mountain looking west.

 

 

Maps are helpful.

 

WRT is less than an hour from Portland and is a great option for wintertime riding, as it drains well and is at fairly low elevation.

A Tale of Two Bridges

 

If you haven’t spent any time recently on Portland’s Eastside bike corridor between Sellwood and the Steel Bridge, you’re missing out on Portland’s first new bike accessible river crossings built since 1958.

We’re not counting the Fremont Bridge, built in 1973 to extend the then new I-405 across the Willamette, because unless it’s Bridge Pedal, you can’t (legally) ride your bike across it. We have heard of individuals possessed of unusual courage (or idiocy, depending on your view) riding over it on their bikes when it’s not closed to cars, but without an eyewitness, we’re not calling it confirmed.

The last year has seen the opening of two new bike friendly river crossings. One, the Tilikum Crossing is completely new, and the second is a new bridge in an old location, the Sellwood Bridge.

The new Tillikum Bridge, as viewed from the North.

 

Heading south, the Eastbank Esplanade passes under the Tilikum crossing before linking up with the Springwater Corridor. Take a left before it’s too late, and head up the ramp, and the ramp will put you on the Tillikum headed west, toward Southwest Portland and OHSU.

MAX Train headed West

There’s a fairly steep grade at first. The bridge deck is arched, but the summit is reached fairly quickly, then it’s smooth and easy sailing down to the west bank of the Willamette.

Good view of the cable stays that support the bridge deck, as seen from one of the viewpoints.

The center of the bridge is reserved for MAX trains and Tri-Met buses. The outer lanes are divided into bike lanes and pedestrian paths, with plenty of room to pass. There are  wide viewpoints (belvederes, in civil engineer speak) that flare out of the path periodically, allowing for uninterrupted contemplation of the view.

A sidewalk cafe adjoining the path at the west end of the Tillikum Crossing.

 

MAX light rail stop at Water Avenue at the east end of the bridge.

Once you’ve reached the west side, you can turn south to connect to the South Waterfront neighborhood and the foot of the OHSU tram, or head northwest toward PSU and Downtown. Today, however; we’re turning back east, then making a right turn toward Sellwood, and the second of our two bridges. This is where the Eastbank Esplanade transitions into the Springwater Corridor, the multi use path that extends all the way to the city of Boring. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we need to pass under the Ross Island Bridge, and thread the needle between the Willamette River and the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. It’s a beautiful ride, and it takes us right to our next destination.

The original Sellwood Bridge under construction.           Image: Oregon Historical Society

The Sellwood Bridge originally opened in 1925, and offers one of the only direct links between Clackamas County and Southwest Portland. As such, automobile traffic has far outstripped it’s original capacity. It was also quite narrow, with only two vehicle travel lanes and a single four foot wide sidewalk that was utilized for two way traffic by both pedestrians and cyclists.

By the beginning of the 21st century, it became clear the bridge needed to be replaced. In addition to being too small to handle the volume of traffic, it was deemed structurally unsafe. In 2006, Multnomah County, who owns most of the Portland area bridges, began the long process to replace it. A new design was approved in 2011, and construction began in 2012.

 

 

Old and new, side by side.

However, plans called for the new bridge to be built in the same location as the old, necessitating moving the original span to allow traffic to flow during the multi-year construction process. After first building new connector ramps, the old bridge was moved north an average of 50 feet before re-opening. The new span opened on February 29, 2016.

 

A better look at the old bridge’s skeleton.

 

A view of the Western foot of the new span, as seen from River View Cemetery.

 

A good view of one of the two ‘belvederes’ (no relation to ‘Mr. Belvedere’) on the north side of the bridge.

 

De-construction in process, as seen from Sellwood Riverfront Park.

Breadwinner Grand Opening

Last Saturday saw the Grand Opening celebration for our newest neighbors, the good folks at Breadwinner Cycles and the new Breadwinner Cafe. After several years building frames in their garages, framebuilding duo Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan stepped up their game and moved across the street from us into the space recently occupied by Koerner Camera. In addition to a cool frame building shop (shared with Metrofiets, builders of fine cargo bikes) they added a cafe.

The new Breadwinner Cafe. The window on the left offers a view of the frame shop.

Their intent is for the new space to serve as a hub for Portland riders to meet up before and after rides, have a cup of coffee and something to eat, maybe watch a little UCI cyclocross on tv. I personally missed the first part of the festivities, which included a brazing demo and a tour that showed how the different parts of the shop operated, but I did make it in time to participate in the group ride, rolling out at 1 pm.

The crew rolling north in Williams

It was a sizable group, 40 to 50 riders at my estimation, led by Ira with Tony bringing up the rear to sweep up any stragglers. The route was a venerable one, a flat loop around the peninsula that comprises North Portland. We headed up Williams, then West on Ainsworth before traversing Willamette Boulevard and the Skidmore Bluffs. After St Johns, we connected with Marine Drive and swung back through Kenton to the start.

Afterward, there was chili, beer and camaraderie amidst the lathes, mills and tools of the frame shop.

The frame shop. The cafe is behind the wall to the right.

 

Bike nerds love beer and food, especially if it’s free.

 

A pair of Breadwinner bicycles, including the personal race bike of Breadwinner mechanic and cx champion Josh Kelley.

 

Completed frames awaiting assembly, with a view into the cafe beyond.

 

Breadwinner’s limited edition G-Road gravel bike.

If you want to visit, the Cafe is open seven days a week, Monday through Friday from 7 til 6, and weekends from 8 until 4. For more information about Breadwinner bikes, or to visit the shop, drop them a line.

Kona, Kona, Kona!

Just a quick post to highlight our newest bike brand, Kona. Best known for making killer mountain bikes, this company from Bellingham, Washington also makes great city, cyclocross, and adventure bikes.

Kona Honzo AL

Bringing in a new line also marks a bit of a shift in focus for us. While still committed to carrying solid bikes for daily riding, we love the rural side of Oregon and we will be stocking more bikes for trail riding and unpaved adventures of all sorts.

Kona Rove ST

 

Kona also makes a solid touring bike, the Sutra, pictured below. It comes loaded for adventure, with fenders, a rear rack and a Brooks saddle.

 

Kona Sutra Loaded Tourer

For serious hauling, Kona also makes the Ute, a longtail compatible with Xtracycle accessories. It comes ready for cargo with a center mount kickstand and a pair of sideloader bags that can carry a lot of stuff.

Kona Ute Cargo Hauler

And finally, Kona makes pretty cool variations on the unheralded hero of the Portland bike world, the humble commuter bike.

Kona Dew Plus

Stop by to check out our selection!

Perry’s Revenge! AKA, Willamette Valley Gravel Grinder Part 2.

One of our very first blog posts was a breakdown of last years Perry Roubaix gravel ride in the lovely Willamette Valley. Well, it’s back! It took more than Snowpocalypse 2014 to stop it, though it did force a 2 week postponement. It was worth the wait however, as the weather turned out to be as good as one can hope for in Western Oregon in February.

Team Metropolis rolled out with a good size group, including some of the usual suspects as well as some new faces. Repeat offenders included the Mayor (yours truly) the Utard, Lil’ Snacky, D-Bone and the Schwartz; as well as recent additions Shriner (he neglected to wear his fez) and Ulander, who brought a special top secret guest who I don’t know well enough to give a juvenile nickname to.


Clearly fascinating. The Shriner, the Schwartz, Ulander and El Utardo. Photo courtesy of Lil’ Snacky.

Lil’ Snacky and the Utard were planning on using this as an early shakedown ride for the Oregon Outback, so they were riding their respective off road touring rigs (see in foreground above ). The rest of us were riding a mix of cyclocross, touring, road and randonneur bikes.


Mmm, crunchy.

The weather was promising on the drive down, but we ran into a thick fog bank a few miles from the start. We battled the fog for the first ten or so miles before breaking out into more typical Oregon cloudy skies.


One of many lovely pastoral views.

The route is a big loop, and does a good job of avoiding towns and busy roads; though you are never far from homes and farms. Surface is probably 60-70% gravel with the rest paved.


I missed my chance to take a picture of this sign last year.

There were approximately 60 to 80 riders at the start line. A few (including Jonathan Maus of Bikeportland.org) had ridden down from Portland. The rest of us were either not that tough or not that stupid, depending on your perspective.

Fortunately, the weather held up until the bitter end and the sun even made a brief appearance.


Snacky’s game face. Or maybe she’s eating a gummi bear.

All in all, a good way to spend a February day. Beats doing yard work.


Panorama

Alley Cross, Episode Two.


SSCX love.

Last Sunday Team Metropolis attended (and some of us actually participated in) the second Alley ‘Cross race of the fall 2013 season at Overlook Park in North Portland.  What’s this Alley ‘Cross thing you ask? Well, it’s sort of a hybrid of a standard alley cat race and a regular cyclocross race. It starts with the entire field (there is only one category) putting their bikes in a designated start location, then convening a short distance away to receive instructions.


The course awaits.

In this case those instructions were “go to the Dog Bowl”. You may not know it by that name, but the Dog Bowl is the unofficial dog park located off N Willamette Ave between approximately Killingsworth and Ainsworth, where the road makes a big curve above a sizable depression in the bluffs below. There the racers would receive the location of the actual “cross” part of the race, where they were to do 4 laps of the course and return to the start, which in this case, would also act as the finish.


The racers receive their instructions.

But first, the racers need to get to their bikes. It’s common in many alley cat races to utilize a “Le Mans start” named after the French automobile race. This means at the “go” signal, the racers run the short distance to their bikes (or cars) and mount up before starting the course. It makes for an exciting though unpredictable start to to the event.


And they’re off!

Sadly, I had more pressing concerns after the race start and was unable to participate or spectate further. I am told good times were had by all. Part of the fun lies in the fact that there is no designated course, and racers are required to rely on their knowledge of the city streets as much as their speed and bike handling skills.


Shenanigans.

Alley Cross 3 is scheduled for January 11th, at Creston Park in South East Portland. for details check out their Facebook page.


Ho ho ho indeed.

Thanks to Kristina Nash for the photos.

‘Cross Crusade Halloween

Sorry I dropped the ball on the blogular activities back in October, but I’m gonna try to make up for it with some recap posts now.  Let’s see where we? Ah, yes. The last race I covered was Heron Lakes, so up next is the 2 day Bend Halloween ‘cross extravaganza. Team Metropolis fielded a fairly small contingent, half of whom didn’t arrive in time to race on Saturday. I myself had planned to race at least one day, but discovered upon waking on Saturday that I wasn’t feeling so hot and bowed out of racing for the weekend. I likewise passed on taking pictures on Saturday, so we’ll fast forward to Sunday, which is the costume day anyway.


Sand? Rocks? Sage brush? Must be Bend.

Cross in Bend is a whole different animal than West of the Cascades. The ‘Cross Crusaders did a typically stellar job in designing the course, combining loose off camber, thick grassy sections, deep sand, two runups and a purpose built flyover ramp.


Dr. Hymans writing a prescription for dirt.


Crappy picture of the flyover. The Deschutes Brewery is in the background.


Sr. Chilidog blending into the background.


The Gnarwhal passing a convict on the inside.


The nastier of two runups. Really loose sand.


The Great Pumpkin rising from the pumpkin patch? Nope, just a costumed rider at the top of the runup.

Cross Crusade Heron Lakes

The third race of the 2013 ‘Cross Crusade took place on October 20th at the Heron Lakes course north of Portland International Raceway. Once again, the day started off foggy and cool, before breaking out into brilliant sunshine. Team Metropolis had a sizable group in the “C”/Clydesdale field and several racers were caught up in a nasty pileup at the start of the first lap where the course took a turn through a long stretch of loose gravel. Young Adriel was one of the casualties.


Lots of loose gravel on this course. photo courtesy of K Nash.

This was also the driest a PIR course has been in anyone’s memory, and it was fast and fun, if a bit sketchy in spots.


Action on the runup.


The Schwartz making a move.


Loose corner under the bleachers.

We set up camp near the Vault, a large concrete platform about 16 inches high and 8 or 10 feet square. The fiendish minds that design the Crusade courses have long since determined that this makes a perfect barrier, and it has been featured in many races at this course. It’s always a great place to spectate, especially since some of the more skilled racers don’t dismount at all, but simply ride up and over the impediment.


The infamous Vault. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the racers who just rode over it.

The other main terrain features are a couple of stretches of off camber terrain on the backside of the only hill on the course. Otherwise, it’s mostly flat. Most years, when it’s wet, these provide a serious challenge; forcing many riders to dismount. But when it’s dry, they are quite rideable.


Digging into a corner.


Off camber on the backside of the big hill.


More off camber.

All in all, another great day of racing!

‘Cross Crusade So Far…

Hey Gang, sorry we didn’t post a recap of the Cross Crusade opener from the Alpenrose Velodrome. We’re going to make up for it now with TWO races in one post, both Alpenrose and Rainier High School.

The first race of the 2013 River City Bicycles Cyclocross Crusade dawned cool and foggy over the hills of Southwest Portland and the grounds of the Alpenrose Dairy. Team Metropolis was there bright and early for a long day of racing. We are pretty well represented in most categories, but the bulk of our racers go in the second race, composed of Category ‘C’ and Clydesdales (racers over 200#). Unfortunately, since most of us were racing, there aren’t a lot of pictures of us doing so. The weather had recently turned from very wet to very dry, and the course was in good condition with the exception of some very muddy stretches which dried through the course of the day with the assistance of the sun, which came out in force during the second race.

This was a theme that was to be repeated the following week at Rainier.


Johnny B, single speedin’.


K Nasty (AKA Lil’ Snacky) attacks the off camber


Senor Chilidog looking pro


JoJo overtaking the competition.


The stairs of doom.


Using the Schwartz

Sunday at Rainier High School started off cloudy and cool. It took a little longer to burn off than the week before, but once it did, it was a beautiful day. I expected the course to be pretty dry, but there were still some severely boggy patches. Rainier’s most famous feature is a long and brutal climb, but this year there were many downed trees as well, which the Crusaders worked into the course.


Using the natural terrain in course design


Notice Brad yelling on the left


Coming out of the woods


Not the big climb, but big enough


A hell of a lot of downed and limbed trees


Tricky corner.

The Team Metropolis encampment is in the background.This weekend the Crusade returns to Portland and the Heron Lakes course at Portland International Raceway! Come out and enjoy the sun. Stop by the Team Metropolis tent and enjoy a beer courtesy of our friends at Widmer Bros. Brewing!

Enter, ‘Cross Season!

It’s been a busy summer here at the shop, and I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging duties. As we transition into fall, I hope to be able to devote a little more time to the blogular sciences. We’re also going to have a lot more subject matter to write about as cyclocross season is here and heating up quickly. The first race of the season was actually August 31st (I know!) and there has been at least one if not two races every weekend since. I myself (along with the Hymanator and Secret Chilidog, with moral support provided by The Schwartz) kicked off the season last Sunday at Fazio Farms. They call it a farm, but it’s as much a gravel pit as a farm, with lots of heavy machinery and huge piles of dirt and rock. I didn’t have much time for photojournalizing, and I didn’t have a real camera, but here are a few cellphone pictures to give you an idea of the majesty of the scene.


The 3 tents on the right are the finish line. The tents on the left had FREE BEER!

The course is in a great location between the Columbia River and the Columbia Slough, just West of the airport. It was an easy 15 minute ride from my house. It featured a mix of fast, flat (though bumpy) dirt and grass stretches and a few short but steep climbs. The main feature was the bomber downhill followed by the uphill to 180 which I referred to as the halfpipe. Holy shit was it fun.


Dropping in. Don’t touch your brakes. Just trust me.


Full speed ahead!


Now pedal your ass off!

But wait, there’s more!


The view from the beer tent to the “dinosaur back”.

The other main feature was the so-called Dinosaur Back. It was a steep (though rideable) hill with a less dramatic though still fun descent. It’s best feature was a sweet berm that funneled you around the hill and into a narrow chute of marshy grass that immediately sapped all your momentum.


Coming down the Dinosaur Back. Note Sr. Chilidog repping the orange.


Dig in and let your tires do the work.

All in all, I vote Fazio Farms as most fun cross course ever. And there was free Tecate!

Next weekend you have a choice between Ninkrossi (featuring lots of Ninkasi beer) or the Battle at Barlow (featuring no beer because it’s at a high school). For more details check out the OBRA calendar. If Fazio Farms looked like fun, it’s coming back for a rematch on November 16th! In 2 weeks shit gets real when the infamous ‘Cross Crusade kicks off at the Alpenrose Dairy.